And so it came to this. The final instalment of a crazy, dual timeline-hopping story that has taken in Germany, Iraq and Switzerland as its three main locations. A story of family breakdowns, shocks, twists and a power drill. Yes, this second series of The Missing has had a bit of everything and is the closest thing on television to a high-concept, page-turning crime novel. What I mean by that is novels – especially crime novels – often rely on unreliable narrators, different timelines and all sorts of literary tricks and devices. This series by Harry and Jack Williams has felt like that at times, and they’ve pulled out the structural trickery to deliver some real pyrotechnics in pretty much every episode.
NB: Spoilers inside
Ever since local German copper Jorn Lenhart was dispatched with a power drill in episode five, we’ve known who the killer was (Adam Gettrick). Ever since then The Missing has turned from a whodunit into a pacy cat-and-mouse game – it has been down to the ailing-fast Julien Baptiste and Gemma Webster to catch Gettrick and rescue both Sophie Giroux and Alice Wesbter (and the child, Lucy).
Even though the emphasis of the show has changed slightly, the fact we had plenty of questions left for the final episode is a testament to the writers who have layered this series beautifully, and often with real skill. Going into this episode I still wanted to know whether Alice or Sophie was Lucy’s mother, what happened to the pair of them while they were locked up in Gettrick’s basement and what part did Stone and Reid play in Gettrick’s Fritzl-like game.
The first 20 minutes or so of this final episode was spent answering these questions. No one can accuse the Williams brothers of leaving anything out there – everything from Stone, Gettrick and Reid (including Reid’s fate) to the two girls’ time in captivity were covered and the questions answered. It was relentlessly expositional, but it was needed. Did I buy everything? Not quite. Adrian Stone, such a proud man and an upstanding, firebrand sort of a guy kind of laid down a bit too easily for my liking when Gettrick threatened to expose him and Reid’s involvement during That Night in Iraq. And, I still didn’t quite get why Sophie was favoured ahead of Alice – she got the better treatment (relatively speaking of course), while Alice was still kept like an animal in the basement of the cabin. In his interview at the end Gettrick did say that Lena Garber (the third abducted girl) just wouldn’t shut up, so maybe that was why Alice was still kept and Sophie was enjoying relative freedom – there was a hierarchy of acquiescence. (Interestingly, Gettrick expanded on his motivation slightly… his idea was to create the kind of ‘proper’ family he was never a part of, replicating the treatment dished out on him by his uncle as a skewed means to achieve his goal.)
The other thing that struck me was that for a final episode there were no real twists. Even when Gettrick shot Sam Webster (dead as it soon turned out) during Baptiste and the Webster’s final siege on the cabin, that didn’t feel like a twist – everything was happening at such pace it was just ‘oh, Sam’s been shot and he’ll probably die’. Perhaps not that matter-of-factly, but you know what I mean.
But that’s not to say that the characters and their fates didn’t resonate emotionally because they did. To some extent.
Series finales are often judged on their ability to answer questions and this final episode of The Missing was extremely satisfying in that respect. There were emotional scenes involving Eve and Adrian Stone (there was still some ambiguity whether he was faking dementia), the Websters, Nadia and Kristian Herz and then the Baptistes. We left Julien – the real glue of the series – counting down into anesthetic-fuelled sleep so he could undergo a life-saving operation. Let’s hope he wakes up again, because throughout the two series Baptiste has been the most likeable and believable character – his work has become his obsession, and his life-threatening disease has added an element of desperation to his behaviour. One again, Tchéky Karyo has been outstanding.
So The Missing, then. The first half was an enjoyable if sometimes infuriating and frustrating Jackson Pollock of a crime drama, with characters and timelines coming and going, while everything from episode five onwards was a masterclass in plotting and pacing, full of bold risks that, for the most part, came off.
For all our reviews of The Missing, go here